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BLIS Updates 10/15/09

October 19, 2009

Although we got a lot accomplished this week, we seem to have a lot more questions than answers.  As we are fixing bugs and adding additional features to the application, we realized that although the app is rich in functionality, there is no process enforced through the workflow of the system.  Because of the need to get something up and running ASAP, inital requirements gathering were sparse and incomplete, so there was no bottom-up designing done at the beginning of coding.  This has lead to code that is somewhat scattered and hacked, with not enough scalability and customization built in.

Therefore, our plan has somewhat changed in terms of how to progress in the most efficient manner:

1. Right now, our CDC contact is in Africa doing usability interviews with some of the labs.  In addition to doing very specific task-completion type usability evaluations with a variety of workers in different roles, we are asking him to go back and ask some very general role and process questions, so we can get a better sense of the natural workflow these technicians and administrators are used to, rather than trying to force the features we have deemed important onto them.

2. While this data and feedback collection is done overseas, we are trying to fix bugs and add additional functionality as quickly as possible, and in real-time response to critiques we are getting from our CDC contact.  That way, as much of the actual functionality can be evaluated as possible for the short time he is over there.

3. Also during this time, we are reaching out to CDC lab technicians in Atlanta to get their input on the system thus far and to better understand the standard workflow of a lab.  Even though we want this system to specifically address the needs of the workers in the African countires, because this new system is such a huge change from what they previously used, even they may not realize all the functionality they may want or could possibly find helpful.  Hopefully, Atlanta technicians may be able to help us out to understand the basics of how a lab functions and how a lab info system should support these processes.

4. After the feeback collection period is over, our plan is to take a step back and re-evaluate the design and implementation of our code thus far.  As this point, we will most probably do some significant re-designing on the structure of the code, keeping our functionality in place, while creating a system that is more sustainable from an implementation point of view.  While we are excited to make the system more and more robust, our number one goal is the create something that will be used for years to come.

Overall, the past few weeks have been very productive from a coding and project understanding viewpoint.  We are excited to hear back from the labs about what they think so far!!

One Comment leave one →
  1. Santosh Vempala permalink
    October 20, 2009 5:17 pm

    This post illustrates the dynamics of the design, development and deployment (D-cube) process in the context of C4G. Whereas the traditional linear approach might advocate a thorough design based on an initial requirements gathering process, followed by development and later evaluation, this model does not seem optimal for C4G projects. Gathering requirements and specifying functionality is a challenge. It is hard for potential users of the final system to articulate their requirements as they often have little experience in doing so or even with computing systems. It is critical for the system to not impose an additional burden on users to have a shot at sustainability. It is also important for the end users who are involved in the design and development process to be able to provide feedback and they can do so by interacting with early prototypes which are mainly used for this purpose.

    Therefore, even though the initial program is not elegant or structured to make it easy to add to, it got the job done in providing functionality and a front end that users (lab techs) could easily and intuitively comment on. That’s where we are now.

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